Category Archives: Culture

We’re Losing Our Brains!

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I carry a large portion of my brain in my pocket – and most likely you do too.   According to a recent European and U.S. study by software security firm Kaspersky Lab, Internet and mobile devices are causing users to store information on devices we once stored in our head. They conclude that losing your phone would be akin to losing your memory.

I’ve been saying this for some time.  When I don’t know the answer to something, I reach for my phone and say, “Let me check my external brain.”  Gone are the days of memorizing facts, quotes, ideas, concepts, or even things as simple as phone numbers.

More than half of European adults surveyed could not remember their children’s mobile phone numbers and needed to consult their smartphone and 1 in 3 could not recite their partner’s mobile number. Across all 6,000 respondents, 57% could not remember the phone number of their place of work. 91% of Americans are dependent on the Internet and devices to remember things, and consider them as an extension of their brain.   Among 16-24s, more than half said their smartphone holds all the information they need to remember.

But what happens to our brains when we stop memorizing and rely on an external device to remember?  After while, wouldn’t we begin to display the same forgetfulness as those suffering from dementia – if not for our phones?  Will our brains atrophy like unused muscles do?

Even more troublesome would be the consequence of not following a major principle of the Christian faith as articulated by King David when he declared, “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.”

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Hiding God’s Word in our hearts (minds) will help us to avoid sinful thought patterns and sinful actions.  The opposite then must be true that NOT hiding God’s Word in our minds will result in sinful thinking and sinful actions.  And while there are tons of Bible apps out there, nothing on or about our smart phones can help us with this.  As Christians, we must discipline ourselves to fill our minds with God’s Word.  Our smart phones just won’t cut it on this one.

Cool Church is NOT Cool

cool-churchChurch attendance has plummeted among young adults. In the U.S. 59% of people 18 to 29 with a Christian background have, at some point, dropped out. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, among those who came of age around the year 2000, a solid quarter claim no religious affiliation, making them significantly more disconnected from faith than Gen-Xers were at a comparable point in their lives and twice as detached as Boomers were as young adults.

In response, many churches have sought to lure Millennials back by focusing on style points: cooler bands, hipper worship, edgier programming and impressive technology.

Recent Barna Group research found 67% of Millennials prefer a “classic” church over a “trendy” one, and 77% would choose a “sanctuary” over an “auditorium.” They also exhibit an increasing aversion to exclusive, closed-minded religious communities masquerading as hip places.

Barna’s David Kinnaman said “Millennials are not disillusioned with tradition; they are frustrated with slick or shallow expressions of religion.”

Are You Really Pro-Life?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent killings of criminals by the police. I’m sure you have too.  You may even have a well-crafted opinion about them like, “The kid in Ferguson was a thug and deserved what he got.  The man in New York City should not have resisted arrest and shouldn’t have been so unhealthy in the first place.”  These are common opinions I’ve heard from many – including some of my Christian brothers and sisters.

Now…I don’t want to get into a debate about whether or not the police were justified in using the kind of force they did.  I don’t want to argue about whether or not those they killed deserved it or not.  I want to speak to my Christian brothers and sisters who claim to be pro-life.

At the most basic of levels, to be pro-life is to oppose abortion and euthanasia.  A person who is pro-life fights to protect the lives of the unborn and the elderly.  It’s a position that claims the “sanctity of human life” as one of its main tenants.  Christians who hold this position quote Bible verses like Psalm 139:13-14 to support their pro-life stance. And rightfully so.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 

However, to REALLY be pro-life means that we value not just life at the beginning and end, but life in-between too.  It means that we value all human lives – including those who have made a mess of theirs.  Being pro-life means that we do not celebrate the taking of one human life by another human.  Being pro-life means we fight for and seek to preserve life from conception forward.

Some may call my position “liberal” – and it is.  As a Christian, I believe that the One we follow calls us to be liberal with our views on and protection of those who live.  Actually, it’s not as much a liberal position as it is a “biblical” position.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-44:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth’ but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Words like these from Jesus, coupled with the fact that God is the creator, giver, and sustainer of all life ought to heavily inform the way in which those of us who follow Him view the issue of life.

While on earth, Jesus claimed to be “the life,” called His followers to love everyone (including their enemies), to live lives of peace, and He even wept over the death of His friends.  And then ultimately, Jesus allowed Himself  to be murdered in order to once-and-for-all defeat death and give life to all mankind.

Therefore, no one who claims to be pro-life should ever celebrate the killing of one man by another – regardless of the scenario.

I do believe that God has established the ruling authorities as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 13.  I’m thankful for our laws that are some of the most just and fair laws in the world, and I’m thankful for our rulers – including the police, who we hire to enforce our laws.  I believe they have one of the most difficult jobs in our society.  When they kill someone in the line of duty – whether we think it’s justified or not – as pro-life Christians, we should mourn.

So, in order to be consistent with what I say I believe, I’m choosing to mourn the deaths of those who have recently been killed by the police.  If you are pro-life, will you join me?

The Real Truth About Marriage and Divorce

50% of all marriages will end in divorce. This is the stat that I’ve come to believe because that’s what “they” say (whomever “they” are). The same “theys” also say that this number is not much different among Christians – 50% of Christian marriages will experience divorce as well. Not good news for the institution of marriage.

However, I can happily say that the “theys” are wrong! Recent studies show that the divorce rate in our culture is not nearly as high as “they” say it is, and that Christian marriages are actually faring even better. Here is the real truth about marriage today:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 72% of those who have ever been married are still married to their first spouse. And the 28% who aren’t includes everyone who was married for many years until a spouse died. No one knows what the average 1st-marriage divorce rate actually is, but based on the rate of widowhood and other factors, it is probably closer to 20–25%. For all marriages (including 2nd marriages and so on), it is in the 31–35% range, depending on the study. Regular church attendance lowers the divorce rate anywhere from 25–50%. (The Good News About Marriage, Shaunti Feldhahn, Multnomah, 2014)

According to Glenn T. Stanton, the director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo., many people who seriously practice a traditional religious faith – be it Christian or other – have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population. The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes — attend church nearly every week, read their Bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples — enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public and unbelievers.

W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, finds from his own analysis that “active conservative Protestants” who regularly attend church are 35 percent less likely to divorce compared to those who have no affiliation. Nominally attending conservative Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce, compared to secular Americans.

Professor Scott Stanley from the University of Denver, working with an absolute all-star team of leading sociologists on the Oklahoma Marriage Study, explains that couples with a vibrant religious faith had more and higher levels of the qualities couples need to avoid divorce: “Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said that they were more religious reported higher average levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce and lower levels of negative interaction. These patterns held true when controlling for such important variables as income, education, and age at first marriage.”

This is all good news! Contrary to popular belief (and contrary to what “they” say), marriage is not a dying institution in our culture, and the marriages that are most vibrant and secure are those where God is central.

Caught on Camera!

While drinking my coffee this morning and enjoying the view from my front window, I saw it.

But before I could do anything, it quickly turned and sped down a side street.  Knowing the migration patterns of this elusive sight, I ran and grabbed my camera expecting it to flash in front of my house a few minutes later.  One only gets a quick glimpse of this predator every few years, so I knew I had to act fast.  I set up  the camera in my front window not wanting to be seen by it.  And I waited…

Suddenly, and without any warning, it appeared right in front of my house.  It came from the north so quickly that all I was able to capture was its hind quarter.  Not good enough! I wanted a full shot, and I knew I would only have one more chance.  So I waited again, but this time with my finger on the camera’s trigger.

After a few false alarms and several empty pictures, I caught it on camera.  It flashed in front of my house one last time – this time from the south, and I was ready.  My heart leapt and my finger fired three shots.  The first shot caught the front quarter, the third shot caught nothing – but the second shot caught all of it!  And here’s the photo…

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The Google Maps camera car! I took a picture of it taking a picture of me, and besides probably triggering a lapse in the space/time continuum by doing this, I also secured my spot for the next few years on Google Maps.  I can’t wait to zoom onto my house from the street view and see if I can see myself.

Who says I don’t know how to hunt?

Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Mike Potter

What do these three legendary men have in common? True grit? Yes. A love for the West? Yes. Frequenting the same watering hole? Yes to that too.

Last week, Michelle and I explored central Arizona on our motorcycles. The sun was beating down on us and our bikes needed a rest.  So, we stopped in Prescott, tied up our bikes outside in the shade, and sauntered in to The Palace Saloon to give our saddle-weary rear-ends a much needed rest and to kick back a cold one.

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Because this establishment was once a den of iniquity, I kept my beautiful wife behind me as I slammed open the saloon doors and made my presence known.  The cowboys at the bar took notice of my entrance and got a glimpse of my wife – but their eyes turned away quickly as they sized me up.  They were no match for me and they knew it.  It was wise of them to keep their eyes off of my beauty and go back to their quiet conversations.

Ok. Ok. That’s not what happened.  But I did whack open the saloon doors – after making sure no one was standing on the other side of them. It felt good.  It felt real.  I felt like a cowboy…with my Steelers shirt on.

The Palace Saloon opened in 1877 and is the oldest frontier saloon in Arizona and the most well-known and historic restaurant and saloon in the state. In the late 1870′s, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were patrons of The Palace on their way to Tombstone.  A fire destroyed the establishment in 1900, but it was rebuilt and reopened in 1901 – and this version remains today.

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It’s a fascinating saloon that feels like you’ve stumbled onto the set of an old western movie when you walk in.  There are even “regulars” who frequent the bar every day dressed in full old-west attire.  I asked our waitress if these men were part of some re-enactment taking place, and she told us that the men are the real deal.  They are retired vets who dress this way every day and gather at the bar daily for a drink and to converse.  I asked if we could get a picture with them, and they obliged.  They had their guns on their hips, but I had my guns…on my arms.  So, they kept their filthy little paws off my wife.

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After we ate and kicked back a cold one, we explored the rest of the building.  In the back, there’s a beautiful wooden staircase that once led to two rooms where things that I shan’t speak of took place.  Today, these rooms serve as offices.  The ceiling in the back of the building is riddled with bullet holes from days past when winners of poker games would celebrate by firing a shot into the ceiling.

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What a fantastic place The Palace saloon is! There are probably better places to eat in Prescott, but you’ll not find a more enjoyable and historical western experience in all of Arizona.

Random Thought Thursday: April 24, 2014

THE MAN IN BLACK IS BACK!

My first exposure to Johnny Cash was in college. An alternative/punk band named “One Bad Pig” did a cover of Johnny’s “Man In Black” song, and surprisingly, Johnny joined them on the cut.  It was a big hit on the college radio station I managed at the time.

That’s the first time I ever heard Johnny’s voice, and I wasn’t very impressed.  I wasn’t very impressed with the guy’s voice from One Bad Pig either.

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Years later, I saw the movie “Walk the Line” about the life of Johnny Cash.  I loved the music, but it was Joaquin Phoenix doing all the singing – and at the time I thought that his version of Johnny was better than Johnny himself.

But with some good things, it just takes a bit of time for it to grow on you.  For me, that’s been true of mustard, asparagus, broccoli, and Johnny Cash.  And in my middle age, not much is finer than those once detested things.

Just last week, a “lost” album from Johnny Cash that was recorded in the 80’s was released.  The album is called “Out Among the Stars,” and man, is it good!  Vintage Johnny Cash with catchy tunes, classic lyrics, and a few guest singers – including Minnie Pearl! HOWDY!

Here’s one of my favorite songs off the album. It’s called, “If I Told You Who It Was.” Enjoy!

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